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Rokia Traoré


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$55.00 SGD
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When it comes to a region with a musical heritage as rich and varied as Western Africa, it's hard to tell if the artists that gain global notice represent the cream of the crop or merely the tip of a vast iceberg. Mali alone is home to so many spectacular musicians it boggles the mind. There's so much myth and mystery swirling about Mali that it's just as easy to discount the hype surrounding any specific artist as it is to take the country's impressive cadre and caliber of musicians for granted.

Of course, Rokia Traoré didn't decide where she would be born. But being born in Mali instantly puts her in the same musical circle as acts as diverse as the late Ali Farke Touré, Amadou and Mariam, Salif Keita, Toumani Diabaté, and Tinariwren-- all established West African superstars. Yet if many of Mali's great acts have musical roots that stretch back decades or even centuries, Traoré represents something of an anomaly.  The privileged (by ethnic birthright) daughter of a diplomat, Traoré gravitated toward music independently, as a college student, and that same sense of independence has imbued her music with a special quality that sets it apart from that of many of her erstwhile peers.

Traoré's outlook has always been notably international in scope, not through compromise-- she sings primarily in Bamana, after all-- but in ambition. While still firmly allied to Mali, Traoré has accepted many opportunities to broaden her own musical palette. In 2006, she premiered an original piece in Vienna as part of a celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday. In 2005, she took part in a tour alongside the likes of Dianne Reeves paying tribute to Billie Holiday. Her 2004 release Bowmboï featured contributions from the Kronos Quartet and drew comparisons to Björk, one presumes not because Traoré's sounds like Björk (she doesn't) but because the two artists share a certain singularity of purpose.

Traoré's latest, Tchamantché, proceeds from a similar singularity of purpose, namely the sound of her Gretsch guitar. Indeed, Tchamantché is a guitar album, albeit a guitar album of a particularly understated bent. Engineered by the legendary Phill Brown (whose credits stretch from Bob Marley to Talk Talk), the album is hauntingly spare yet ridiculously well-defined, the timbre and tone of every string presented in perfect resolution, the occasional accompaniment of a rhythm section or Sly Johnson's human beatbox reserved but wholly effective. - Pitchfork

Label: Decca Records – 00602435917191, Decca Records France – 918542
Format: Vinyl, 2 x LP, Album
Country: France
Released: 24th September 2021
Genre: Folk
Style: African